Comment to 'What's the elevator pitch for your WIP?'
  • Hi Jon, I think the shorter version leaves too big a question. Why is the decision down to a limbless thief? 

    The longer version is much more interesting although it's also too vague. What kind of person has she fought hard to be and what kind of person was she before?

    Re cutting the word count, 'A limbless thief finds a machine that can create perfection' seems enough for the first part. And to me it presents the idea that the thief could have limbs, and perhaps be a better thief or not a thief at all. Personally I'd rather see 'A limbless woman' to start with; it's more precise. Then maybe use 'thief' as part of what she'd have to give up, if I've got that right. Not wanting to give up being a thief sounds interesting, along with the other implied point that being able bodied isn't necessarily desirable.

    Is she really limbless or does she use prostheses? That's a question I'd have too.

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    • Hi Libby. Completely agree with your point about the shorter version, which is why I don’t like it particularly. It takes 300 pages or so to explain why a limbless thief is in the position of making that decision… no chance of doing it in 20 words!

      As for the second version, what I need to convey is the journey that my MC goes on, and how it affects the existential decision that she'll face at the climax of the novel. The theme of the book is based on the Japanese philosophy of ‘wabi-sabi’, which finds beauty and value in the imperfect and the broken, and that’s reflected in her story as well as the wider plot. Both speak to the fact that imperfection and incompleteness are not synonymous with flaws or weakness. 

      The climax of the book is when she finds herself the only person who can choose between destroying the machine in question - the Perfection Engine - or allowing it to be used (by the person responsible for her injuries in the first place… but that’s an added complication!). 

      If the Engine is used, the world and everything and everybody in it is effectively recreated in a perfect state - no flaws, no trauma, no pain, no injury, no grief. If she prevents it being used, everything stays just as it is, an imperfect world, flaws and all. 

      At that moment, she chooses to be ‘imperfect’ and herself rather than ‘perfect’ and another, different, person - the person who she would have been without the trauma and struggle in her life. She is what all her life experiences have made her, good and bad, joyous and painful. She’s ‘perfect’ as she is. Flawed, imperfect, and incomplete, but also strong, resilient, and capable.  I should stress that in no way do I mean to suggest the unhelpful trope that it’s her disability or her struggle that makes her strong. She's not strong because she’s hurt or angry; she’s strong simply because she’s strong. Whether before or after her injuries.

      As well as the purely personal dilemma, there’s a wider philosophical conundrum at play. As the only person who can prevent the use of the Perfection Engine at the climactic moment, she’s not just making the decision for herself but for the whole world, since the whole world will change. Has she the right to make that choice for others? Indeed, that’s the fundamental difference between her and her primary antagonist - who believes absolutely that they do have the right to make that choice… and will stop at nothing to do so, the ends justifying the means. 

      I do think the ‘limbless thief’ description is important to the pitch, to be honest. It’s what I’ve always thought is the USP of the story, given that it’s such a seemingly unlikely combination (in the MC’s own self-deprecating words ‘A limbless thief. Of all impossibilities!’). The intention has always been to ensure that my depiction of her as a thief is believable enough to dispel other preconceptions that readers might have about 'ability' and what's possible. In fact, I'd be happy if at times they simply forgot about her disability and simply accepted her as they would any other character.

      To answer your final question, the level of her amputations and the technological development of her world mean that she doesn’t use prostheses. But she does of course use a number of assistive devices in her day-to-day life and work.

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